I teach at a particular club which has 30-minute slots back-to-back in the morning. When I turned up to teach my class a few weeks ago, the Instructor before me was looking stressed. He said: “That COMBAT Instructor man, he went right up to six forty-five! He gave me 25 minutes to teach a 30-minute GRIT Strength class.”
We’re taught lots of essential things at Initial Module Training: how to teach a class that’s safe and effective; how to learn choreography; how to role-model technique. What you won’t learn, however, is how to be a good “shoulder Instructor” i.e. the Instructor that teaches right before, or after, someone else’s slot. If you want to get on with your fellow teachers – and, more importantly, not irritate the members – follow these eight steps for a stress-free transition!
If you’re teaching the class before
- Finish on time
I have to admit, I never appreciated how important this was when I first started teaching. I recall regularly running 5 minutes over in my Sunday BODYPUMP™ class because my transitions were way too long. Sarah Today would have absolutely HATED Sarah 2010.
It seems like a no-brainer, but it can be way too easy to run over time. Equipment set up/ clear down, chatty members, overlong playlists, Meditation/ Relaxations that go on forever (BODYBALANCE™ Instructors – I’m looking at you). I teach after one Instructor who always runs right up to the last second of their slot (and sometimes goes over). While I don’t really mind since there’s nobody after me, the members do. They regularly message me to complain about their time-keeping and it’s not nice to start a class with half the members feeling annoyed.
Basically, do your best. Cut the cooldown short if you need to, take the conversation outside, ask members to clear their equipment away quickly. And if you really can’t fit into the timeslot, talk to your Group Fitness Manager about adding in a 5-minute buffer to help you out.
- Help them set up equipment
BODYPUMP and GRIT Strength Instructors: how amazing is it when the Instructor before you helps set you up? It literally takes seconds of your time to help set up, but that Instructor will be so grateful. When there’s tight transitions between classes, having an extra pair of hands can really make all the difference between starting on time and starting late.
Even better, clean the mic for them with an antibacterial wipe before you hand it over. I had this done for me once (thank you Gandalf), and it really made my heart glow. Also, change the batteries on the mic if needed. Also (this should be a given) if you’ve perspired all over the floor, wipe your sweat up before the next Instructor takes over!
- Mix into their playlist like you’re Calvin Harris
Nothing kills the mood like an Instructor pulling the AUX cord out of their phone and leaving the studio in dead air. A friendly fade out and waiting for the Instructor to be ready to switch over to their music is much more polite. Even better, once your class is over, play something that sets the vibe for the one that’s about to start. I actually have a BODYCOMBAT playlist on my phone for this very reason.
- Promote their slot
Say it with me: it’s not a competition. There’s room for all of us! If you tell the class how wonderful the next Instructor is and to stick around for their class if they want to, they’re not all going to desert you next week. If anything, it makes you look highly magnanimous and a good team player.
Obviously, if you’ve just taught LES MILLS GRIT Strength™ and the next class is LES MILLS GRIT Cardio™, you might not encourage your class to stay (HELLO overtraining). However, exhorting the benefits of staying for BODYBALANCE or LES MILLS CORE™ shows your knowledge of the programs and will help your participants get the most out of their membership.
- Make the transition fun!
I don’t know about you, but I don’t get many opportunities to chat to other Instructors. Everyone’s just too busy running from class to class, and it’s very easy to only see your peers at Quarterly Workshop. I actually really treasure the few minutes I get to chat to my shoulder Instructors. Even if it’s only 30 seconds, it’s a bonding moment when you get to confess if you’re super tired or you completely messed up the choreography or tell them which mic is the best one to use. I’ve made some of my closest friendships out of these moments, and sometimes having a laugh with another Instructor before you teach can really help to lift the energy in the room.
(Don’t make it too long though. If it’s obvious the next Instructor needs to start their class and you’re still chatting, make a date for coffee because their members will legit hate you if you make them run late).
- Take your selfies outside
You and your members just had SUCH a great class. They want to take a selfie with you, chat about your holiday, ask your advice on technique… this is all lovely, but if the next class has started, you need to take it away from the stage! (Preferably, out of the studio altogether).
Similarly, you may know some of the members in the next class. You may want to say hi and ask when they’re next coming to your class. That’s all very nice, but just make sure you’re not distracting them from the class they’re doing. They’ve come to train, not to have a 10-minute conversation with you about the weekend.
If you’re teaching the class after
- Don’t slag off the class before you for being late
OK, sometimes people run late. We get it, it’s annoying. However, what’s even worse is when you’re clearly evil eyeing the previous Instructor and then get on stage to announce: “Sorry we’re late, the (insert class/ Instructor name here) ran over”. Not only is this starting off YOUR class on a negative note, it also just looks incredibly unprofessional.
Be gracious and understanding. And if it’s a recurring issue, either have a polite conversation with that Instructor outside of class, and/or take it up with the GFM.
- Control your BODYPUMPers
Very specific, but if you’re about to teach a BODYPUMP class and you see your members starting to crowd in on the studio brandishing their barbells like pitchforks, it’s your job to keep everyone at bay until your class starts. One well-known Instructor in Auckland frequently lectures the BODYPUMPers who follow their cardio class not to start setting up their equipment until their class is over. Respect their timeslot and lead by example.
(This does also go for other programs. A friend of mine teaches BODYBALANCE and says her Meditation/ Relaxation is frequently interrupted by a member who opens the door and shouts to those waiting outside for the next class, “Yes, they’re still going”. It makes her blood boil.)
So, there you have it: eight easy tips to get along with your fellow "shoulder" Instructor and keep all of your members happy at the same time!